PBHS awarded $50K to create three new career paths under PLTW
Posted on 04/16/2024
Alana Dowdy and Dr. Valerie Ivy.

Poplar Bluff High School has been awarded $50,000 to help establish three new pathways in lucrative career fields under Project Lead the Way, bridging ancillary programming already in place across the R-I district.

Beginning in the 2024/25 school year, students will be able to choose from biomedical, computer science and engineering programs. Additionally, algebra one advantage—in its pilot phase through the nonprofit organization—will be added as a hands-on supplement to the mathematics curriculum currently available.

“We have several community partners who need qualified workers interested in these fields, and our students have expressed interest,” PBHS Principal Dr. Valerie Ivy said, “so it’s important because we wanted to connect the two and give them opportunities that they may not have had otherwise.”

The Poplar Bluff School District is the first in Southeast Missouri to adopt all modules under the national curriculum provider, according to Alana Dowdy, PLTW director of school success in Missouri. “This is the only school district basically south of St. Louis with all of the offerings to be fully implemented,” she stated.

Over the past five years, R-I has secured $130,000 total in grant money to offer Launch at the four elementary schools, Gateway classes at Junior High and computer science at the Technical Career Center, where start-up funding available through federal grant programs has also been applied.

During the January meeting, the Board of Education approved the TCC’s matching requests through 50/50 Enhancement grants and under the Perkins Act to help provide training for teachers presently employed. The plan will be to vertically align with the existing programming established at the TCC, enabling PBHS students to begin taking computer science classes as freshmen and sophomores, according to education officials.

PBHS was previously awarded a $16,000 National PLTW Grant for engineering and $14,000 for biomedical, in addition to being selected as one of five districts out of over 100 applicants and the only high school in Missouri to receive $20,000 for computer science, also administered through the organization, to go toward the cost of curriculum, access to software, equipment and supplies. Other external funding sources are still being sought, Ivy noted.

Ivy recently met with department heads to assign teachers desiring to become PLTW certified in a four-year implementation plan of accelerated course offerings. For the inaugural year, science instructor Andrea Carroll will teach biomed, science teacher Kara Cummings – engineering and Heather Pullam of the Business Department will lead computer science. Adjustments will be made to class sizes that may not have been weighted appropriately before the expansion of career and technical education options, according to Ivy. Of 75 spots available, a total of 72 course requests were made by students as of last month, she reported.

This past school year, Ivy recalled how several students inquired about the medical field, but no class options besides prerequisites were offered and, she said: "We needed to follow through for our kids.” In October, the principal and her team attended a showcase in Dexter, where the PLTW programming has been implemented at the secondary level for several years. “We were sold,” stated Ivy, who began identifying funding sources the following month.

“I just watched it transform instruction,” explained Dowdy, who formerly served as Dexter High School principal, and was responsible for ushering in PLTW before accepting her regional position with the leading science, technology, engineering and math provider. “Kids go from the passive learning that happens in the kind of old-fashioned sage on a stage model to actually being active participants in the process. And teachers gain access to the professional development suite, connecting with a community that’ll be yours forever—something we kind of lose in our silos.”


Cutline: Alana Dowdy (left), PLTW director of school success in Missouri, and PBHS Principal Dr. Valerie Ivy visit in recent weeks.

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